The room was fairy-tale-esque in its decor. The spacious top-floor ballroom of some expensive building that was a headache and a half to secure. The sweeping windows let in the soft light of the evening sun, which made the marble floor glow like liquid gold. The light played off the crystal glasses and jewelry of the assembled guests. The light thrum of an orchestral set, and the soft laughter of rich women set the airy tone of the evening. The walls and ceiling hung with colored drapes, giving some corners a sense of privacy, for more intimate conversations. There were wait staff with trays, laden with food and drink. Men and women both were dressed to the nines. Dresses trailed behind designer shoes, expensive watches caught the dying sunlight, and hats sported plumage from more than a few endangered species. Had this been any other party, the center of the room might have been set for dancing. As it was however, a long, low bench-shaped object sat in the middle of the floor, covered with a delicate white cloth. The murmurs of conversation were becoming more and more excited as the cover of night drew nearer. Men stood and chatted in the corners, discussing the exchange of money, the possibility of gaining more wealth than they already had. The mood was electric, excited, and baited for the evening’s main event to begin.
Secretary Pierce stepped to the center of the room, bringing a quietness with him. “Thank you all for coming. As you know, this is one of my favorite events of the season.” A light murmur of laughter ran its way through the gathering. Pierce waved it off with an easy smile. “I assume you have all waited long enough, and I’d hate to keep such a lovely turn out waiting.” He checked his watch. “Please, indulge me in a toast to tonight’s festivities.”
A dazzling assortment of crystal was held aloft as the Secretary spoke.
“It’s so good to be surrounded by friends on an evening like this. It’s not everyday someone climbs another rung on the ladder of age. This toast is to the evening, to all of you, and to another successful year ahead of us all.” Pierce took a drink, the crowd following suit. “Now,” he turned to a man dressed in dark clothes, “please bring him in.”
He’d been awake for eleven days, five hours, and sixteen minutes. ‘Awake’ being a loose term here meaning ‘not in a medical coma.’ He slept, if fitfully, in the cell he was always provided while out of cryo. “Provided makes it sound so charitable,” the small angry voice in his head muttered. The Soldier shushed it.
Early that morning, he’d been woken so they could prep him for the mission. Bathed, every inch of his skin scrubbed pink and raw, the chemical smell that generally clung to him--whether from the icy sludge he was stored in, or the disinfectants used to keep him in condition--was masked with florals and sweet things. They made his nose itch.
He knew the procedure, could tell this would be an assignment where he would need to be close to people who would evidently care if his hair was untrimmed and he smelled of bleach. He kept his speculations silent, just letting the techs clean and dress him.
He sat outside the doors now. Heavy, dark wood, polished to a shine he could almost see his reflection in. The Soldier waited. This building, he’d decided on the way in, was a tactical nightmare. Too many windows and far too few exits. He could break the glass, he knew, but that had the added effect of drawing attention. Should he need to make an escape to stay with his target—
One of the handlers snapped his fingers in front of the Soldier’s eyes. The Asset tensed, focused now.
“Listen up,” the handler was crouching, making eye contact. The Soldier stared back, scrutinizing. “You know the drill. You take your orders from the Secretary, and today that means everyone in that room gets a piece of you. C’mon now. You’re up.”
It was a waltz, slow, enthralling. The Asset, groomed and shined, led into the ballroom. The party stilling to a murmur. The Asset kept his eyes on Pierce, standing in the center of the gathering, holding the gaze with practiced ease.
“Now then. Let’s begin.”
Pierce crossed to the bench at the center of the room.
“I hope everyone’s placed their bets.” A laugh rolled through the crowd, men and women both shuffling tickets and chips from hand to hand.
The air stilled, moving to an aching crawl as Pierce casually pulled the cloth from the bench. The Soldier felt his mouth go dry. For all the terror the chair instilled in him, for all the aching blanks in his head, some things were burned into his mind. The device was basic, simple really. A low, wooden bench, three or so feet off the ground, its polished sides reflecting the soft lamplight. The seat itself, the Soldier figured, was about two feet wide. Along the top was a progression of multicolored dildos, bolted carefully in place. The range in size was not unfamiliar to the Soldier, and that alone sent a shudder along his spine, barely suppressed. Along the bottom of the contraption, a track was set in, heavy metal bolts keeping a set of brilliantly polished shackles in place, the track allowing them to move freely alone the bench. White lines were drawn on the green surface to complete the charade of a poker table alive. It was the Secretary’s voice which pulled the Asset back to the assembly.
“Now… who’s got a starting bid to warm up our entertainment?”